From her southern home, Ella heard about the need of nurses for the sick and dying in the army. It was during the evil days of civil war, and Ella longed to do the work of Christ in helping the sick and sharing with them the gospel.
It was the Sanitary Commission that collected gift supplies of blankets and clothing from the churches to be used in the army hospitals. In one of the Sanitary Commission boxes, Ella found a beautiful patchwork quilt that she could tell was laced with love. The stitching was exquisite, and care had been taken to make it as light as possible so as not to lie heavy on the soldiers' wounds. Upon touch, she found it soft and smooth. It was made of square blocks of calico and white cotton intermingled. Every other block was white and every other colored.
But the most unusual feature of the quilt was that upon every white square was a carefully embroidered text of Scripture or verse from a well-known hymn. On the central block, in large bold letters so as to catch the careless eye, was embroidered the words, "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners," and below it the prayer of the repentant, "God be merciful to me a sinner." The head border, which would be nearest to the sick man's eyes and most often read, were texts of promise, love, and comfort. Among them Ella read, "God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish." "Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters!" "I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears."
Ella's eyes moistened as she read the note attached within, "I have made this Scripture quilt for one of the hospital beds, for I thought that while it would be a comfort to the poor body, it might speak a word of good cheer to the precious soul; the words are so beautiful and blessed, and full of balm and healing. May it be a blessing to the dear boys in the army, among whom I have a son."
"Oh," said Ella, "that all our beds had such a quilt!"
"God will surely speak through these embroidered words of love to the sick and wounded," added another. "They will read the verses on this quilt when they will read nothing else. Who knows what good will come from this quilt?"
Ella folded the note and placed it in her Bible. She decided she would notice what happened to the quilt and those who used it.
It was not long before a man with pneumonia was brought into the sick bay and the new quilt was put on his bed. He was too sick to notice anything at first, but as he grew better Ella saw him intently studying the texts. "Handy to have 'em here!" he said, pointing to them as she stood beside his bed.
"Then you know how to value them," she said.
"I do," he answered heartily.
After that she saw many studying the quilt in fact, almost all who lay beneath it. One poor soldier, who had tossed and turned with pain and fever for several days, caught sight of the words, "And I will give you rest." He beckoned to Ella and, pointing to the verse, asked, "Where can I find that rest? I need rest for body and soul. I am half mad. You can see that I am sick, but I'm even sicker where no one can see. Tell me how to get rest!"
you never heard of the way? Have you never heard of Jesus?" she
"Tell it to me again," he said. So she told him the story of the cross.
"He died for my sins?" he asked.
"Yes, yours," she assured him. "He saw you in your sins and pitied you. He loved you and died to save you from sin and to give you rest and peace. He died to make you happy!"
"I have never been happy. Never." he said. "I've been too wicked. Tell me, did He really die for me? I never felt it before. It just never seemed very real to me before."
"I hope you will come to feel it," she said. "Have you seen the lines on the quilt that say, 'None but Jesus, none but Jesus, can do helpless sinners good'?"
"It's true," continued Ella. "I know it is true. None but Jesus can bring you help. I've tried everything else, and there is no other way. Here is another verse on the blanket from a hymn that says, 'I'll go to Jesus, though my sins, have like a mountain risen.' "
"But I can't go. I don't feel like I can do anything. I am a very wretched man. That's all I am, a wretched man," he responded.
"Then just leave yourself with God," Ella said. "Repeat this verse, 'Here, Lord, I give myself away, tis all that I can do.' That's all you have to do just give yourself to Jesus."
"Is that verse here on the quilt?" he asked.
Ella showed it to him, after which he said, "I'll keep it before me. Oh, for a little rest!" Not long afterward he found rest, rest of soul and peace of mind. He had found Jesus. Soon he left the hospital, a happier man than before he came.
An illiterate Irish lad lay under the quilt. One day when nearly well he was looking at it. "Is that reading?" he asked, pointing to a text of Scripture.
"Yes," answered Ella. "Would you like to know what it says?"
"Please read it to me," he said.
Ella read, "And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes, and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain."
"Read this one," he said, pointing to another square.
"I love them that love Me, and they that seek Me early shall find Me," Ella read. "It was the Lord who said that," she added.
"Yes, it was the Lord. It's so good to a lonely person to hear you read," the young Irishman said.
As the months went by, dozens of boys and young men lay beneath the blanket, each one being observed by Ella. What blessing, cheer, and hope the blanket, stitched with love by some Christian mother, brought to nearly all! It was as if God was directing just who should lie beneath it.
One young man under the blanket lay for over a week in a near-unconscious state. Why they gave him that bed they did not know. But soon he began to come to his senses. Ella watched to see if he would notice the Scripture texts and hymn verses upon the quilt he did not. But then she witnessed the strangest thing. He eyed the comforter carefully, and then she thought she saw him kiss it.
"Maybe his mind is wandering," she thought. "Or maybe he found a special verse of Scripture," she mused. She carefully marked with her eye the area of the blanket that he had kissed in order to find out what Scripture it might have been that so touched him. But when she walked by close enough to see, to her surprise there was no text on that square at all! The spot that he had kissed was one of the bright colored, calico blocks with the pattern of a little crimson leaf sewed into the middle of it.
He kept looking at that leaf with tears in his eyes. Ella was sure his mind must be wandering. Then she saw him kiss it again, so she came closer to the side of his bed. He looked up at her with a smile shining through some tears and asked, "Do you know where this quilt came from?"
"Some good woman sent it to us through the Sanitary Commission," she said.
"You don't know her name or where it came from, do you?" he asked.
"No, but why do you ask?" Ella wanted to know.
"Because the material in this crimson-colored leaf looks just like my mother's gown and it reminds me of her," he said.
So that is why he kissed the leaf, Ella thought. "There was a note that came with the blanket which I saved in my Bible," she told him.
"Would you be willing to let me see it some time when it is convenient?" he pleaded.
"Oh, yes," she said. "I'll get it right now." As she handed it to him, she saw him open it and look at the handwriting. His lips trembled and grew white when he saw the writing.
"Please read it to me, quite slowly," he asked. "It's my mother's writing."
Ella read and re-read the note to him. "Are you going to keep that note?" the boy wondered.
"Oh, yes," said Ella. "I value it and the comforter very much. It has brought salvation to many soldiers."
He put his hands over his eyes, not wishing any to see him cry. Ella thought he wanted to be alone, so she left him for a time. The next day, as she came to his bed, she was wondering if he had seen any of his mother's texts. He had, and pointed one out to her. It said, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son." He whispered, "That is me. I am no more worthy."
Ella put her finger on the next white block and read to him, "When he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him." As she looked up, she saw tears upon his cheeks, and his lips were trembling once again. Again he covered his eyes and she left him.
A few days later, when he had grown much stronger, he held up to her the text she had shown him, saying, "I was a great way off, but He has met me and had compassion on me."
"Do you feel the Saviour's love?" she asked.
"Yes," he responded, "and I am filled with a peace I've never known before. I believe God does love me. He led me here, just at this time, and gave me this blanket that my own mother has made! What a Saviour!"
"Shall I write to your mother and tell her that her son who was dead is alive again that the one who was spiritually lost has been found?" she asked.
"Would you please?" he responded. "I'm sure that she was thinking of me with each stitch she sewed in this lovely blanket. She didn't know I would ever see it, but she knew that some mother's son would feel its comfort and read its texts. Please let her know that I've given my heart to Christ."
And so it was that God used a mother's love to reach her wayward son. And now let me share with you a short story of how God used a son's love to reach a wayward father.